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who's in charge now? let's play "hardball." ♪ good evening, i'm chuck todd in washington in tonight for chris matthews. leading off -- now what? there are so many unanswered questions now that nato is preparing to take over the military campaign against moammar gadhafi. how big of a role will the u.s. play now? are we still in charge? and with war fatigue setting in and criticism from both sides of the aisle, when does the
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president fully explain what's at stake in libya for the united states? the white house will address is monday evening. plus, fear of spreading terrorism. there were anti-government demonstrations today and in some cases violence in many arab countries, including yemen. thousands turned out calling for the ouster of the u.s.-backed president there. if the president is overthrown, who stops al qaeda in the arabian peninsula from taking over? and there are increasing concerns of spreading radiation from that crippled nuclear power plant in japan with even more people now being encouraged, not forced, to get out of the area. how great is the danger? plus with hispanics making up 1 in every 6 americans and one in every 1 ever 4 children, the huge emphasis on the 2012 election. finally, how does anyone who actually believes they have a chance of winning the republican
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nomination get heard when people like michele bachmann, sarah palin and donald trump are taking up the oxygen. we start with what's next on the libyan front. nbc chief foreign correspondent d geis bghi, afr heldg up of da. whatapnetoy t ou ilia atoue en >> reporter: today we went out of benghazi. and instead of going to the rebel frontline about 100 miles south of here, we went to the frontline and then went around it. and we were able to get inside the city of ajdabiya. ajdabiya is partially held by gadhafi forces and partially held by the rebels themselves. there is street-to-street fighting in the city. in a way, this is progress, the rebels would not have been able to get this far if gadhafi's forces hadn't been significantly weakened by the western air strikes. there's new video today of british air strikes on gadhafi's
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tanks just outside of ajdabiya. so the western and now nato or, i guess, u.s. offensive against gadhafi's army is making an impact on the ground, but it is not very quick moving. the rebels are in the city, they are fighting, but street-to-street fighting takes a long time, chuck. >> what's unclear now, who makes up the opposition? who is the leader of the opposition? there's going to be some representative in london, i'm told, over the weekend in this conference with nato. but also some representatives of the opposition at an african union meeting where supposedly gadhafi was going to send representatives. what can you tell me about that? >> the rebel leaders we've spoken to and these are both on the political side and on the military side. the military side aren't involved in any of these discussions. there is a political leadership, and they're very weary of entering into any kind of dialogue or negotiations with gadhafi. they simply don't trust gadhafi.
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they think anything he's offering could be a trick, something used against them. gadhafi was offering to send 2,000 people here to benghazi as a peace offering carrying literally olive branchs. and the people of benghazi says we don't want them in the city, don't want them near the city because who knows what they might do. so there is an opposition. they would much rather talk to nato, much rather talk directly to france, europe, the united states and not to gadhafi directly because they don't trust his motives. >> i want to ask you about two other countries where things heated up. one, yemen, we've been tracking for a while. but i want to talk to you about syria because a few days ago when we hear about these protests in syria, i had some people say, you know what? this is a regime that knows how to crack down in brutal ways. this won't be a serious uprising. and yet today, reports were this was a pretty serious uprising.
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>> people used to say the same thing about egypt. oh, it could never happen because the egyptian security forces are so good. there are a lot of parallels between egypt and syria. and i've always thought that syria was conspicuously quiet in all of this. syria has a regime that is very similar to egypt's, perhaps more tightly controlling. a one-family dynasty that the son isn't nearly as powerful or as charismatic, or brutal as the father. people don't feel they have political rights and political freedoms. they have an educated population, an urbanized population. and these are all the symptoms that have proven to be so explosive and successful in arab revolutions. educated people, no expression, urbanized population, family dynasty going back decades. then syria has all of those characteristics. and there are indications it will continue to spread in syria. >> explain the game.
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i had somebody say to me, if syria as important as egypt was in creating this potential for a domino effect, somebody argued to me that syria would be a bigger deal than egypt. explain what you think that person meant to me by that? >> different dynamics. egypt is an enormous arab country. in many ways, it is the symbol, the capital of the arab world, the arab league is there. everyone around the region watches egyptian movies. everyone speaks or is familiar with the egyptian dialect of arabic. so what happens in egypt so goes the rest of the region. syria is strategic for many reasons. it is the channel for weapons into lebanon for hezbollah, it is a bridge to iran. it is -- it has traditionally been a stalwart enemy of israel.
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so the -- the dynamic -- i guess you could call it the arab/israeli dynamic is much more impacted by the events in syria. and it wouldn't -- i would also watch the connections between syria and hezbollah and syria and hamas. and there are many senior hamas leaders who live in syria. more activity from hamas, more activity in gaza, or explosions in israel itself to try and deflect some of the pressure off of the syrian regime. so it's strategic because of those kind of relations. egypt is strategic because it is just the homeland, the home address of the arab world. >> richard engel, our chief foreign correspondent in benghazi. i wish we could clone you sometime. i would like to have you in damascus as well helping us out. >> i would like to be there. i can't believe the region. i've never seen it like this. >> unbelievable, and you're doing great work. thank you. white house press secretary jay carney announced today that
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president obama will address the country on the status of the mission in libya. but we're going to talk about the political implications and why he's doing that. we're going to turn to our msnbc political analyst in the's managing et tour, chris. chris, the political problem that is facing this white house regarding libya is something that seemed to catch them a little bit offguard. >> it did. which is kind of strange in that they know -- it's not as though they think congress is particularly friendly to them. they know the republicans seem to control congress. now the partisan dealings of these sorts of foreign involvements are different than domestic. economy, health care, we know where everyone's going to shake out there, but there was this bipartisan resistance. you had jim webb, a democrat from virginia, you had dick luger from indiana. and it's both the bipartisan nature of the resistance as well as kind of the, whatever word used -- anger, that's probably not the word that john boehner would choose, but that letter
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he wrote to president obama, he was clearly miffed at not being consulted enough, want more information. these are things the president does not want to hear. >> where did the white house miss the signals? you and i were talking earlier. could it be when they saw john kerry and john mccain on the same side of this calling for the no-fly zone that they said to themselves, okay, we've got congress covered, we've got to deal with this trip, figure out how to get more arab nations. they had a lot of fires going on. and they thought, mccain and kerry, there's our cover, congress, box check. >> you stole my box check metaphor. that's exactly it. a lot goes into this at any time, forget when you're about to leave for latin america on a trip that's been long scheduled. i'm sure they did due diligence, but they certainly did some diligence in congress in terms of mccain and kerry. said, what wow think of this. the hard thing is, congress is a tough beast to predict. you were on the trip, i think things got a little bit away from them. and it's very difficult for the president to control message when he's in a foreign country.
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it's just very -- it's hard -- the perception is hard. it's hard for him to give a big speech about another country when he's in latin america. i think your point about a speech early next week, i've heard the same thing monday and tuesday. the goal being wrap this up. you know, it's the old good morning, good afternoon, good night. the three strikes rule. why we got in, what we did, and why we're out. that's the goal -- >> and it's already worked. >> and the question is, will they be able to say it's already worked? >> today the president briefed the relevant members of congress. the leadership, heads of the key committees, and we'll obviously find out in the next 48 hours how well that briefing went. >> it's the first time the president has updated members. congress has been on recess. we do know that gates and clinton will go to the hill to testify next week. we assume we'll have presidential remarks. but i want to throw in one other thing here. have they underestimated war fatigue? the abc/washington post poll, boy, was just a stinging reminder of afghanistan. >> lowest numbers ever for our poll in afghanistan last week. we were talking about this
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earlier. i think a lot of what you see here in the post vietnam era, there is no patience for foreign involvement with the united states unless it's gulf war one. it begins in late january, ends in late february, we're out. the obama administration is hoping they can do that with libya. the problem -- >> not even a week. >> you know this better than i, though, when you're in a foreign country, entangled with a coalition of people, it is not so easy to say we're out, we won, walk away. ask george w. bush about mission accomplished. we know how that turned out. >> all right. chris cilliza, "washington post," thanks very much. coming up, what do we know about moammar gadhafi? will he fight or flee? and who are the rebels that the no-fly zone is essentially helping out? big questions. we're going to get some answers from the former libyan ambassador to the united states who broke with the gadhafi regime early on. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc.
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well, the world is giving wh dwerely know aut the rebels taking on colonel gadhafi in the past, past rebels we supported one day are becoming our enemies the next. afghanistan, one person who know, recently resigned as the libyan ambassador to the united states. he's supporting the position. mr. ambassador, welcome. let me ask you, who is the opposition? tell us who they are, and should the united states who has stopped short of recognizing them recognize them as the official leadership of libya. >> well, the opposition, they are the ordinary libyan who raise against the regime. they are doctors, professors, students, they are lawyers, they are normal people in libya who have been suffering for the last 42 years. then they are not al qaeda.
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what the regime tried to describe them. if there's al qaeda, then the regime is responsible for them being in the country. but the libyan people raised against the regime peacefully, and unfortunately they're being killed. for example, the chair of the council, he was the former justice minister. he's very known in libya. he's a very capable man, he's very decent man. and a professor, he's working in the gulf area in the gulf countries. and he'd been brought by colonel gadhafi to reform libya. >> you said in a former interview that you did not belief gadhafi would flee, that he would die on libyan soil. that he didn't want to face the threat of the courts. is there no safe haven in the world that he could flee to?
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>> well, i think it's not a matter of a safe haven. i think it's a problem of gadhafi's mentality. gadhafi believed until now that the people likes him. >> he really thought the people supported him? >> that's what he believed. >> he really believed it? >> that's what he believed. he's living in a different world, i believe. he lost touch with reality. libyan people offered him a safe exit. but until now, we don't see anything positive. i have here like many other that maybe there's a chance for him to negotiate and president sarkozy of france, he mentioned something that britain and france are working for a peaceful solution. that's what we want. the libyan people want to get rid of him. because if he's there, there's nobody secured. the problem is not the army, the problem is gadhafi. if you want to save the libyan civilian -- >> you believe if you cut off -- in this case, if you cut off the head, if gadhafi goes, all of his troops, either the ones that
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are libyan join the opposition and the ones that aren't, they disappear? >> of course. as far as gadhafi, there's a danger there, if gadhafi is removed, we'll be able to get together again. >> this is not about a regime? this is one person? >> one person, and the close alliance to him who use them, killers to kill libyan people inside libya and outdeib. annoon lyapelere victims, western are victims too. you see the terrorist action in germany and britain and many different places. >> i want to play you something that secretary clinton said last night about nato. and i want to get your response to it. here's what she said. >> in the days ahead as nato assumes command and control responsibilities, the welfare of those civilians will be of paramount concern. this operation has already saved many lives, but the danger is far from over. as long as the gadhafi regime
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threatens its people and defies the united nations, we must remain vigilant and focused. >> this operation specifically does not target gadhafi, should it? >> well, i think if this operation is targeted by gadhafi forces, then the libyan people know how to deal with gadhafi -- >> you believe the libyan people can handle gadhafi? >> of course. >> as long as they have the protective military cover? >> that's right. because the force is not equal. gadhafi has professional soldiers, the latest technology. the people are forced to fight him, they have the traditional weapons. and even the range of weapons is completely different. how can they fight? they need the help of the international community. and this is a historical chance to get rid of this man. he has no place on the earth as far as we are concerned. and the libyan people will not go back, they will not negotiate. there is no negotiation, only for safe exit for him if he wants to go. otherwise, if the world leaves
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gadhafi in power, leave him behind, believe me, the western countries will suffer more than the libyans. because he's a man of revenge. he will never forgive. >> ambassador, thank you for coming in. my best to you and your family. >> thank you, i appreciate it. up next, troubles news out of japan where that damaged reactor core may vab breached. it mean much larger amounts of radiation are already leaking out. we'll get the latest on that crisis when we return. you're watching "hardball."
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welcome back to "hardball." let's go to another continent. the radiation leak in japan's crippled nuclear reactor could signal that the reactor core has been breached. although it's unclear where the radiation is leaking from. today's news is certainly another setback in efforts to get the nuclear plant under control. also today, the japanese government said people living up to 19 miles from the reactor
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site should consider a voluntary evacuation. earlier they had suggested people in that zone just stay indoors. how bad is it? james acton is the associate with the nuclear program at the carnegie endowment for international peace and joins us now. james, let me start with the evacuation notice. it's still voluntary. is the japanese government making a mistake by making it voluntary? why say you probably should go but not make it mandatory? >> i think one thing to understand about the position the japanese government is, there's already 500,000 displaced people in japan. they've been hit by a massive earthquake. they've been hit by a massive tsunami. and there are real costs to evacuating more people, costs to those people. if you're an evacuee from that region, you're going to be going to inadequate sanitation, food, and water. >> all right, this new radiation, at this point, we
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already know about the workers at this point that are incredibly ill. does this mean all work stops again. if this radiation leak happens, there's nothing that can be done to get this reactor back under control? >> well, based on the latest information i have, the radiation levels on the site as a whole are not increasing right now which is actually very good news. there is locally very high levels of radiation in the basement of the turbine hull of reactor three. >> where they think it's leaking out? >> yes, which is the place where the work is stumbling into this highly radioactive water. there is similarly highly-rated active water in the basement of the turbine units of one and two. >> if you can't do any work in these three. if this is what the information we're getting in, and work basically gets tampered or halted, or halted completely,
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what does that mean for the likelihood that could end up with a full melt down? >> it's not entirely clear to me exactly whether the reason they were laying power lines into the basement of the turbine hulls was for a crucial cooling systems. and, you know, just details of the plant schematics you would need to answer that question are not available at this moment. i don't think they would be laying these cables if they didn't consider it highly important to do so. >> and at what point do we think they can get this under control if they can get back to work? are we weeks away? are we months away? >> potentially. to ov t last w days, but the almost unanimous consent of the expert community was we weren't out of the woods yet. this is still a volatile situation. it's still a dangerous situation, still a situation that could change on a day-by-day basis. there's no obvious time frame for ending this. this is a crisis that could drag on for weeks longer. it could be over in days, it
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could drag on for weeks, it could go on for a month or two. >> all right, james acton, the carnegie enbauschment for peace. thanks very much. we look forward to unfortunately seeing you on our programs all over the place. you've been very helpful. thanks very much. that's "hardball" for this week. up next, "your business."
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Hardball Weekend
MSNBC March 26, 2011 5:00am-5:30am EDT

News/Business. The best of 'Hardball With Chris Matthews.' New.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Gadhafi 25, Syria 14, Libya 9, Nato 6, Egypt 6, Benghazi 4, Afghanistan 3, France 3, Ajdabiya 3, Britain 2, Latin America 2, Allegra 2, Clinton 2, Israel 2, Washington 2, Hezbollah 2, Campbell 2, Yemen 2, Moammar Gadhafi 2, Msnbc 2
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on 7/3/2011